On the last day of June, the U.S. commander in Iraq transferred military authority to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who promptly held a day of national celebration. Then, America skedaddled. It wasn’t pretty. After six years and 4,300 American deaths, we got no “mission accomplished” moment, and things are still a big mess over there, both militarily and politically – but at least we’re through with it.
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Only… we’re not. Not by a long shot. First, only about 30,000 of America’s soldiers in Iraq have actually left, and the Pentagon says it plans to keep 50,000 troops stationed there for years to come.
Then there’s the little matter of being stuck with the bill for this reckless misadventure. Rather than paying for the war as we went, George W and Congress put the whole thing on the nation’s credit card. According to two top economic analysts, Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, the direct tab for that war is already at a trillion dollars. But that doesn’t count such things as interest payments on the war debt, replenishment of military equipment, and longterm care for the 80,000 troops who’ve been wounded or traumatized. These items raise the monetary cost to some $3 trillion, so we’ll not be “through” with Iraq for generations to come.
Meanwhile, since our military machine was diverted to Iraq in 2003, Afghanistan’s Taliban was freed to regain power and grow stronger than ever, so Obama and Congress are now headed down that bloody and costly war trail. About 60,000 US troops and $24 billion have been committed this year to the carnage in this harsh land.
While America is officially “out” of Iraq, we’ll be mired in its consequences for a long time. It’s a hell of a price to pay for… Well , for what, exactly?
“Assess the cost and pain of war,” Austin American Statesman,” July 5, 2009.
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